King And I

The King and I is a musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II based on the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon. The plot comes from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, who became school teacher to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Leonowens’ story, The English Governess at the Siamese Court, was autobiographical, although her biographer, Susan Morgan, author of the 2008 biography Bombay Anna has discovered numerous inaccuracies and fabrications.

The musical opened on Broadway in 1951 and was the sixth collaboration for the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein. It ran for 1,246 performances, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, among other awards. It spawned numerous revivals and a popular 1956 film version.

The best-known songs from the musical are probably “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Getting to Know You,” “Hello, Young Lovers,” and “Shall We Dance?” The most colorful number in the musical, visually (to Western audiences), is the ballet “Small House of Uncle Thomas,” choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

Set against a dazzling and exotic backdrop, The King and I is the moving story of Anna, an American governess, who tries to help an Eastern king to come to terms with the modern world, but he is unable to resist the forces of ancient customs. The conflict between Eastern and Western cultures inspired this well-loved musical, which has been revived professionally many times and is always a firm favorite with the public.

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